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(by Sarah Lynch, USAToday.com) CAIRO – Parties that want an expansion of Islamic law captured a clear majority of the votes in Egypt’s first election since the uprising that ousted longtime authoritarian leader [President] Hosni Mubarak, according to results released Sunday.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party topped winners with 37% of the nearly 10 million valid ballots cast for party lists in the first of three electoral rounds for the Egyptian parliament.
The Brotherhood, a movement that seeks to expand Islamic [Sharia] law in many countries in the Middle East, prevailed in an election that included voters in Cairo and Alexandria, cities where liberal [secular; non-religious] parties had hoped to exhibit their greatest strength.
Also winning big was the Nour Party, which took 24% of the vote. The party, dominated by the ultraconservative Salafis, did not exist until a few months ago. It seeks to impose strict Islamic [sharia] law similar to Saudi Arabia in which [all] women must be veiled and alcohol banned.
“I am excited by the Egyptians, not by any other thing,” said Essam El Erian, vice president of the Freedom and Justice Party. “Egypt now is astonishing us and others. We are ready for democracy. We are a real democracy, and we can build our country.”
Some Egyptians aren’t convinced the Muslim Brotherhood will be moderate, as its leaders have claimed.
“I’d be a little nervous with the Brotherhood in power,” said Arabic teacher Nermine Hassan Sayyed, who said she was concerned over women’s rights. “What would Egypt look like? Would I be banned from walking on the street? From working? I hope they will not be extreme in their governing, but I’m not sure about that.”
There are two more rounds of voting in 18 of the country’s 27 provinces through January. The Islamists’ hold over the next parliament appears set given that the remaining elections are in areas where they are strong.
“We did our best,” said Mohammed Abou El Ghar, president of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, part of a liberal Egyptian bloc that captured 13% of the vote and hopes to use it to counter Islamist views.
Under Mubarak, Egypt was a secular nation in which religious parties were harassed and banned. Islamic law is [currently] not applied to most aspects of law and society.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 as an Islamic alternative to Western influences. It inspired al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, an Egyptian and former member of the Brotherhood.
The group’s election win could determine Egypt’s future in many ways given that the new parliament is to appoint a committee to draft a constitution that many Islamists want based in part on principles in the Quran. But the ruling military council that has run Egypt since Mubarak’s fall in February has suggested it will choose 80 of the committee’s 100 members.
“The conflict will be over the soul of Egypt,” said Nabil Abdel-Fattah, a senior researcher at the state-sponsored Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. He called the parliament “transitional” with a “very conservative Islamic” outlook.
The Brotherhood’s supporters said the Islamists will put Egypt on track toward economic improvement in a nation where unemployment is high and 40% of people make less than $2 a day.
“The Brotherhood knows that the country must be developed again,” member Ahmed Abd El Salam said. “Now it’s necessary for all different sects in society to work together.”
The Brotherhood’s success was due in part to its longtime presence in Egypt. Members are expected to contribute 7% of their income to the organization’s activities, funding campaign rallies. The contributions also fund helpful social services the government has not provided.
“After elections are over, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists will take everything,” said Salafi Muslim Hesham Al Ashry, a tailor in Cairo. “We will see what they’ll do. They’re better than all the others because they are the closest to sharia law.”
Western nations have feared that Islamists would reject Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel. El Ghar doubts this.
“The Brotherhood is very pragmatic, and they won’t do something stupid like break it,” El Ghar said.
“It’s not for our benefit to break the peace treaty with Israel,” bus driver Amed Awad said. “We want to it to be modified but not broken.”
Many Egyptians realize the importance of peace and stability. “We look for relations with the West to depend on respect and common mutual interest,” El Erian said.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from USA Today. Visit the website at USAToday.com.
NOTE to Students: Before answering the questions, read the information under “Background” below the questions.
1. a) Which two political parties won the majority of the vote in the first of three electoral rounds for the Egyptian parliament?
b) What percent of the vote did each party win?
2. a) What is Sharia?
b) What is the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal for Sharia?
3. a) The Nour political party members are Salafi Muslims. What are Salafis?
b) What goal does the Nour Party have for Islamic law in Egypt?
4. Why are the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party and the Salafi’s Nour Party expected to dominate the remaining two rounds of Egypt’s parliamentary elections?
5. The U.S. State Department does not include the Muslim Brotherhood on its list of terrorist organizations. However, several well-known terrorists and terrorist groups have their origin in the Brotherhood. Name these individuals/groups.
6. CHALLENGE: Read the commentaries under “Resources” below the questions. Egypt’s recently ousted authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak ruled Egypt with a secular (non-religious) government. How do you think these commentators view the victory of Islamist parties in Egypt? Explain your answer.
b) How do you think Egyptian women view the victory of the Muslim Brotherhood and Nour Party in Egypt? Explain your answer.
EGYPT’S NOUR POLITICAL PARTY:
The Nour political party members are Salafi Muslims. Salafis are a militant group of extremist Sunni Muslims who believe themselves the only correct interpreters of the Koran and consider moderate Muslims to be infidels; seek to convert all Muslims and to insure that its own fundamentalist version of Islam will dominate the world. (from thefreedictionary)
EGYPT’S MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD:
ISLAMIC [SHARIA] LAW:
Unlike many religions, Islam includes a mandatory and highly specific legal and political plan for society called Sharia. The precepts of Sharia are derived from the commandments of the Quran and the Sunnah (the teachings and precedents of Muhammad). Together, the Quran and the Sunnah establish the dictates of Sharia, which is the blueprint for the good Islamic society. Because Sharia originates with the Quran and the Sunnah, it is not optional. Sharia is the legal code ordained by Allah [the god of Islam] for all mankind. To violate Sharia or not to accept its authority is to commit rebellion against Allah, which Allah’s faithful are required to combat.
There is no separation between the religious and the political in Islam; rather Islam and Sharia constitute a comprehensive means of ordering society at every level. While it is in theory possible for an Islamic society to have different outward forms — an elective system of government, a hereditary monarchy, etc. — whatever the outward structure of the government, Sharia is the prescribed content. It is this fact that puts Sharia into conflict with forms of government based on anything other than the Quran and the Sunnah. (from jihadwatch.org/islam-101.html)
Read a commentary “Dangerously Underestimating the Muslim Brotherhood” at:
and a commentary on the Salafis (the Nour Party) at: blogs.cfr.org/husain/2011/12/01/why-egypt%E2%80%99s-salafis-are-not-the-amish